Government attacked over treatment of UN rapporteur

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The government has been criticised for its decision not to allow the UN special rapporteur on violence against women access to Yarl's Wood detention centre during her fact finding mission to the UK.

Exchanges on the subject began with a question on 6 May 2014 from crossbench peer Lord Ramsbotham who said the decision can have done the UK's national reputation "no good at all."

Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo said she was barred at the gates of Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre on 14 April on instructions "from the highest levels of the Home Office".

Ms Manjoo wanted to visit the privately run centre, near Bedford, to verify allegations of abuse that she had received.

On 31 March Christine Case, a 40 year old Jamaican women, died at the removal centre amid claims she was denied medical assistance.

During the debate, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Averbury called the refusal to allow Ms Manjoo access a "kick in the teeth to the UN" and a "violation of the terms of [the UN's] mandate".

Defending the government's position, Home Office Spokesman Lord Taylor of Holbeach told the chamber that the visit to Yarl's Wood "was never agreed to as part of this fact finding mission".

Lord Taylor told the House the government had done its best to "support a programme for her visit that was more directly related to addressing violence against women".

"As part of her the visit the special rapporteur met with the home secretary, the minister for crime prevention and the chief inspector of prisons," Lord Taylor added.

Citing a recent report by Women for Refuge Women, Labour's Baroness Lister of Buttersett said "many women in Yarl's Wood have experienced violence, which surely makes this a relevant visit for the special rapporteur".

During her 16 day visit to the UK Ms Manjoo criticised the country for having an in-your-face "boys' club sexist culture" which leads to certain perceptions about women and girls.

At the start of the session Lord Cromwell was sworn in as a one of the 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords after being elected to the chamber on 9 April 2014.

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